S-Space College of Humanities (인문대학) English Language and Literature (영어영문학과) 영학논집(English Studies) 영학논집(English Studies) No.31 (2011)
Male Invasion of the Female in Chaucers The Knights Tale
- Kim, Min Young
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 인문대학 영어영문학과
- 영학논집, Vol.31, pp. 79-89
- This paper analyzes the ways in which female characters in Chaucers The
Knights Tale are intricately but ruthlessly intruded by men. A close reading of
the text will reveal the fact that female characters in The Knights Tale suffer
from male invasion in virtually every aspect of their lives: their bodies, their
voices, their feminine qualities, and their gender roles.
The various types of male infringement on women are signified by the
stories depicted on the walls of the temple of Diana. For this reason, a careful,
close reading of the pictures on the temple of Diana is crucial. William F.
Woods argues that her temple paintings are scenes from Ovids Metamorphoses.
Considering that they are Chaucers original inventions, however, one
may assume that the paintings unfold much more. Moreover, the fact that
the temples are constructed under Theseuss orders reflects the manipulative
power of Theseus and the Knight narrator over women. Hence the depiction
of women in the stories illustrated on Dianas temple symbolizes the whole
idea of male invasion of womens domain in The Knights Tale.
The problem, then, does not lie in femininity itself which men tend to disparage
as vulnerable and fragile, but rather in the stubborn patriarchal order
that men endeavor to establish and impose on women throughout the tale.
The Knight narrator intentionally deletes the details regarding women in his
tale, and even when he allows women characters to speak, he grants it only
when it reinforces the patriarchal order; Theseus possesses the Amazonian
women and uses their merits and roles for himself in order to become an impeccable
men-hero who would not need womens help.
The uncompromising system of the patriarchal order is indeed prevalent in
Chaucers The Knights Tale. Hence reading the tale either only as a narrative stigmatizing feminine passiveness or only as a positive integration of activity
and passivity into a fully human ideal would be incomplete. The Knights Tale
is full of attempts of men, both the narrator and the male characters who try
to put women absolutely under their control to construct an utterly patriarchal
order. This is well illustrated when Theseus tries to locate the feminine
Wheel of Fortune under the influence of the masculine First Mover. Because
of this one-sided system both in heaven and earth, however, there lurks ever
threatening forces of chaos everywhere. There can be no ultimate order
of all things as long as men force to silence and cripple the will power of
women. Taking passiveness and mutability of women as a sign of weakness or
negativity may stem from the bias inherent in the patriarchal society; but one
must be aware that if those feminine qualities are deprived from male oppression,
they can never be a positive force. It is this patriarchal oppression which
produces potential chaos. The Knights Tale enables the reader to explore the
theme of male invasion of the female in the patriarchal world by presenting
a male-oriented narrator who tells a noble yet troublesome story.